Sutton Place South Gives Up the Ghost… of Its Backyard

Mr. Mayor, tear down this fence! (Geoffrey Croft/NYC Parks Advocates)

It appears they have opened the open space floodgates on the East Side of Manhattan.

Ever since the city reached a land deal with the United Nations to help build a new East River park, a parade of new developments have taken place in Manhattan’s rarefied reaches. There are new plans for the U.N. and the esplanade beside it, and the Related Companies has finally revealed new plans for Rupert Playground, where it wants to build condos and a medical facility.

Reversing the karma of the public-to-private transfer at the playground, the city yesterday reached a settlement with Sutton Place South, the East 50s co-op that for over a century has controlled a private park overlooking the river. When the FDR was built, the co-op was given control of a new park built on piers over it, but that deal lapsed in 1990, though it was not brought to light until a few years ago. As with so many things in the world, litigation ensued.

“When I go the grocery store, or in the elevator in my building, even though this has been going on forever, people would still ask me about it, what’s going on,” local City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin told The Observer. “People were really hungry and excited about it. That’s the nice thing about coming to a negotiated settlement like this, we have a solution everyone can live with.

Under the settlement, the city will gain control of a 10,000-square-foot section of the park closest to the water. Part of the legal wrangling was over exactly how much land would have to be relinquished, and it was determined to be what was equivalent to the high water mark. Whereas before the co-op had demanded $10 million for the land, it is now actually contributing $1 million to a new park, with another $1 million coming from Ms. Lappin. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement that provides a valuable amenity for our community,” Lucy Lamphere, president of the co-op, said in a statement.

There are still those in the community who believe Sutton Place should not be entitled to any of the land. “It’s good to have the new park,” Geoff Croft, head of NYC Parks Advocates, said. “It’s just that the co-op board has been dragging this out for so long, I wasn’t aware of any need to compromise.”

The Parks Department has tapped local landscape architects Dirtworks to redesign the park and better integrate it into the surrounding neighborhood. “Instead of this little pocket park, you’ll have a much grander feel, especially once it is integrated with the rest of the waterfront,” Ms. Lappin said.

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC

Sutton Place South Gives Up the Ghost… of Its Backyard